‘Aryan’ politics behind Indus-Saraswati history

Posted in European History, History, India, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on March 3, 2010
Hattusha's Lion - note the weathered mane

Hattusas' Lion - note the weathered mane

A tale of two cities

To understand the ‘politics’ of Indus-Saraswati Valley sites, a good start point is Turkey.

In 1834, local villagers  in Turkey, (then the Ottoman Empire), guided a French explorer, Charles-Felix-Marie Texier to nearby ruins.  These ruins, he  thought were ruins of the Celtic Tavium city, mentioned in various Roman sources. Instead, what he ‘found’ was a more ancient culture, that predated Rome by 1500 years.

The Hittite city of Hattusas, that Texier ‘discovered’, took another nearly 100 years to start disgorging its secrets to modern archaeologists. The name of the Hittite city, Hattusas, is itself possibly derived from the Sanskrit word, hutashan, हुताशन meaning “sacred sacrificial fire.”

Guarded by weathered stone lions, very similar to Ashoka Pillar lions, the city of Hattusas, became a cause for much politicking.

The politics of archaeology

In 1906-07, an Turkish archeologist, Theodore Makridi-Bey, started excavations at Boghazkoi, (identified as the ancient Hattusas city) 150-200 km from Ankara, Turkey. He was joined by Hugo Winckler, a German archaeologist, specialising in Assyria. They unearthed more than 10,000 clay tablets which were of tremendous interest.

Earlier, in 1904, English archaeologist John Garstang (1876-1956) lost out to Hugo Winckler, of Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, (German Oriental Institute) supposedly at the intervention of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm-II for excavation rights at modern Boghazkoy.

Related to Boghazkoy tablets were some of the tablets found at Tell-el-Armana, by Flinders Petrie in 1891-1892. The decipherment of the Tell-el-Amarna letters, by JA Knudtzon, in 1901, linked the few earlier tablets found at Boghazkoi-Hattusas. By French archaeologist JA Ernest Chantre in 1893-94, who was

the first in a long line of archaeologists to dig at the ancient site in the 1890s, starting with the hill top compound. His exclusive interest in tablets, unfortunately, led him to destroy everything else he uncovered.

What Makridi Bey and Winckler found, were some 10,000 clay tablets. 10,000 tablets, which no one in the world could read.

On the other side of the world

Bedřich Hrozný
Bedřich Hrozný

A Czech cryptographer, educated in Vienna, Austria, working in Germany, Bedřich (or Friedrich) Hrozný, cracked this code over the next 15 years – and that set off a furore among archaeologists. Hrozný’s

discovery was based on this short sentence written in cuneiform: NU NINDA-AN EZZATENI,WATAR-MA EKUTENI .

Since many Babylonian words were included in Hittite texts, the clue was provided by the Babylonian word ninda, which means “food” or “bread.” Hrozný asked himself a very simple question: What does one do with food or bread? The answer, of course, was, one eats it. So the word ezzateni must be related to eating.

The publication in 1922 of these tablets showed, in one case, a call to Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nastya to witness a treaty between the Hittite king Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, a Mitanni. Gods that only people in India worshipped.

So, how did Vedic gods land up in Turkey, some 3500 years ago?

A deserter’s tale

Back in India, a British ‘soldier-of-fortune’ working with the English East India Company, during 1833-1838, was making his way into various parts of India. On one such trip, after,

A long march preceded our arrival at Haripah, through jangal of the closest description. East of the village was an abundance of luxuriant grass … in front of the village … (a) ruinous brick castle. Behind us was a large circular mound, or eminence, and to the west was an irregular rocky height, crowned with remains of buildings, in fragments of walls, with niches, after the eastern manner. The entire neighbourhood is embellished with numerous pipal trees, some of them in the last stage of lingering existence; bespeaking a great antiquity, when we remember their longevity. The walls and towers of the castle are remarkably high, though, from having been long deserted, they exhibit in some parts the ravages of time and decay. Between our camp and it extended a deep trench, now overgrown with grass and plants. Tradition affirms the existence here of a city, so considerable that it extended to Chicha Watni, thirteen cosses distant, and that it was destroyed by a particular visitation of Providence, brought down by the lust and crimes of the sovereign. (from “Narrative of various journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan by Charles Masson”; underlined text in parenthesis supplied).

During his travels, over North and North West India, he “bought numerous ornaments, gems and coins in Kabul bazaar and amassed an estimated 60,000 coins, gems, seals, rings and other, mostly bronze, surface finds from the urban site of Begram north of Kabul.”

This travelogue, published in 1842, is the first known Western citing of Harappa.

Railway tracks over history

Much before 1857, the British Raj was wracked by rebellion, mutinies, uprisings, battles against colonial British rule. More than 50 of them between 1800-1850. Pushed by this state of constant war, British defense goals in India justified the expansion of Indian railway system. Many of these railway systems were set up by Indian princely states and the promoter-investors, with funds, underwritten by the Indian fare paying passengers. Buried under this railways expansion, are some vital elements of Indian history.

Between Lahore to Multan, for about a 100 km, buried under railway tracks, lies history. John Brunton, on an assignment to build railway lines from Lahore,  used bricks from Harappa “ruins, which in extent exceeded all (his) anticipations … situated on the banks of a deserted river bed.” As this section for railways was being built, contractors used precise bricks and baked clay blocks from nearby ruins and abandoned buildings, to lay the bedding, to which railways tracks were later anchored. The bricks used for this ballast were 4000-5000 year old bricks and clay material from Harappa. On this ballast, rests ‘modern’ Indian history.

Probably, even world history.

Indus Valley Civilization – a history of false starts

Alexander Cunningham, Director of Archaeological Survey of India reported in 1875, how the sites had changed from the time of his trips in 1850’s. The few seals that came to Cunningham’s attention, were promptly declared as “foreign to India.” In spite of the many finds, the first publication was of “three Indus seals discovered by the Italian scholar L. P. Tessitori at Kalibangan in 1917-18 …”

Between 1911-1912, DR Bhandarkar visited Harappa and Mohenjo daro. He thought the ruins did not represent “the remains of … any ancient monument …” and were less than 200 years old as the “bricks here found are of the modern type”.

The 1931 issue of Illustrated London News - Great New Discoveries of Ancient Indian Culture on a Virgin Prehistoric Site in Sind - further results of pioneer research at Chanu-Daro, in the Indus Valley: relics of craftsmanship, domestic life, and personal adornment in the third millennium B.C. by Ernest Mackay D. Litt, FSA, in 5 x photos of seals and seal amulets with animal designs.

The 1931 issue of Illustrated London News - Great New Discoveries of Ancient Indian Culture on a Virgin Prehistoric Site in Sind - further results of pioneer research at Chanu-Daro, in the Indus Valley: relics of craftsmanship, domestic life, and personal adornment in the third millennium B.C. by Ernest Mackay D. Litt, FSA, in 5 x photos of seals and seal amulets with animal designs.

Very little was published or studied, even though, Cunningham, Auriel Stein, DR Bhandarkar, Harold Hargreaves, were aware of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro sites.

All quiet on the Western front! Why?

Reactionary announcement

After 80 years, (1845-1924) of inaction, silence and denial, suddenly the British Raj ‘decided’ to put these ruins to some ‘good use’.

John Marshall, Director of Archaeological Survey Of India (ASI), a Lord Curzon-appointee, was despatched to Harappa and Mohenjodaro, in 1925, (his first visit!).

Despite being in India, and in ASI from 1902, Marshall’s first visit to Harappa and Mohenjodaro was in 1925. Based on his ‘insights’ and ‘intuition’ Marshall started writing an ‘authoritative’ book on the “Indus  Valley Civilization”.

What was behind this decision?

During 1800-1900, various excavations, in the Levant (Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia et al) Western archaeologists dug up more than 400,000 clay tablets. Showing an ‘Aryan’ linkage, pointing to India – peaking with the Boghazkoi decipherment. ‘Modern’ history does not

appreciate the colossal scale of their discoveries, decipherments, and specialized studies, and the effect of this new material in opening up the ancient Orient to European view in the period between 1880 and 1914. As scholars ransacked a vast quantity of new textual and archaeological documents, they discovered the powerful influence of Zoroastrian Persia, the esoteric depths of ancient India, and the primeval innovations of the Assyrians and Sumerians. These new cultures, appealing in their antiquity, spirituality, and apparent purity, made the well-known “orientals”—especially the ancient Israelites and Egyptians—seem derivative, corrupt, and banal …

… in the quest to give the Wilhelmine Empire autonomous and secure cultural foundations, they shared a common set of enmities—and an inclination to fight occidentalist traditions with “oriental” truths. (from German Orientalism and the Decline of the West By SUZANNE MARCHAND; ellipsis, underlined text in parenthesis supplied.).

The timing of the Indus Valley announcement, coincided with the publication of deciphered Boghaz-koi and the Amarna tablets between 1920-1925. When Indus Valley announcement was made, world historical narratives were at a delicate stage. Hegel-Marx-Muller’s historiography of ‘Aryan Invasion’ of India was hanging by a thin thread.

From the Illustrated London News - A "Sheffield of Ancient India: Chanhu-Daro's Metal Working Industry 10 x photos of copper knives, spears , razors, axes and dishes (Click for larer picture).

From the Illustrated London News - A "Sheffield of Ancient India: Chanhu-Daro's Metal Working Industry 10 x photos of copper knives, spears , razors, axes and dishes (Click for larer picture).

After WW1, with Germany defeated and Turkey dismembered, classification and announcement of the ‘Indus Valley Civilization’ (IVC) swiftly followed with a publication in Illustrated London News, in September-October 4th, 1924.  John Marshall, (Director, ASI, 1922-1927), made his first visit to Harappa-Mohenjo daro the next year, in 1925. He ‘recorded’ his excavations and investigations, in a 3-volume book.

Marshall’s tale of ‘Dravidian’ cities (Harappa /Mohenjo-daro) destroyed by ‘Aryan invaders’, has survived for nearly a 100 years. ‘Aryans’ a  Western invention, viewed through a prism of Euro-centric, colonial ideology of the 1920’s, have no basis in history or archaeology. There never was an Aryan race. On the other hands, the Aryan-Dravidian ‘divide’ were obvious colonial attempts to divert attention – and to draw attention away from the Indian connection with Boghazkoi decipherments.

And the story does not end here!

Bigger than WW2

In the dying days of the Raj, came more insidious history. At the apex of WW2, Britain pulled out a general from the Italian theatre of war and sent him to India – to head colonial India archaeological operations at ASI.

One evening in early August 1943, Brigadier General Mortimer Wheeler was resting in his tent after a long day of poring over maps, drawing up plans for invasion of Sicily. Mortimer Wheeler was invited to become the director general of archaeology by the India Office of the British government in its last years of rule in South Asia … Summoning a general from the battlefields of Europe was an extraordinary measure, an admission both of the desperate condition of Indian archaeology and an acknowledgment of its vital importance. (from The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture … – Google Books; ellipsis, underlined text in parenthesis supplied).


Why would the glorious British Empire, on which the sun never set, struggling for its very existence, in the middle of WW2, suddenly pull a general back from the battlefield – and put him into archaeology! That too, Indian archaeology. Not Egyptian, not Greek!

One writer explains how one of Wheeler’s “main objectives was training the rising generation of Indian archaeologists in the field methods that he had perfected …” Oozing with the milk of human kindness, aren’t we? Especially, in the middle of WW II! When it was clear, that the British would be ‘departing’ from India – sooner than later.

Just why did the world’s foremost imperial power, struggling for its very existence, put a general on to the job of digging dirt.

Dirty brown Indian dirt!

Nejstarší dějiny Přední Asie a Indie Bedřich Hrozný - The oldest history of Near Asia and India

Nejstarší dějiny Přední Asie a Indie Bedřich Hrozný - The oldest history of Near Asia and India

Aryan /Indian history becomes fashionable

At the start of twentieth century, there were swarms of people wanting to study Aryan/Indian history. Along with cultural dacoits like Augustine Waddell, Auriel Stein, there were the more academic types who wrote a book on India and ‘Near East’ – Nejstarší dějinyPřední Asie a Indie by Bedřich Hrozný.

By the 1920’s under a deluge of archaeological evidence, it appeared that Indian history would run away from its rulers – the British Colonial Raj.

Usurping Aryan Achievements

While Britain and the France, for colonial reasons, were ‘discovering’ the Greek miracle, Germany and the USA started ‘discovering the ‘Aryan’ roots’ to Western civilization.

Martin Bernal, the author of ‘Black Athena” trilogy analyzes Western “amnesia” towards African contribution to Western culture. His thesis traces this ‘amnesia’ to the replacement of Europe’s “Ancient Model”  (Egypt-Greece-Rome model) of historiography with the “Aryan” (India-Mesopotamia-Babylon-Assyria) model.

Simply speaking, the West replaced Egypt as the source of culture with the Aryans. Fact is, neither the cultural achievements of Egypt (from Africa) nor of the Aryan (from India) are for the West to arrogate to themselves.

A writer on this phase of history, Susan Marchand says,

“The Aryan industry, of course, burgeoned. Even the former Kaiser Wilhelm II, in exile, took up the study of the Orient … In a 1928 letter to his friend, the former emperor reported a recent conversation with Oswald Spengler in which Wilhelm had tried his best to convince the herald of Western doom that “we are orientals [Morgenländer], and not westerners [Abendländer].” (Bold letters, italics, ellipsis mine).

With Germany and America on the Aryan train, Britain was hard pressed to control Indian historiography. ‘Fresh’ evidence was needed to show ‘Aryan’ invasion. Indus Valley civilization provided that opportunity.

The task became easier as Germany lost WW 1, and the Ottoman Empire was carved out of existence. The rump state of Turkey went down the ‘Westernization’ path. Neither Germany or Turkey were in any position to oppose Anglo-French historiography. The Egypt-Greece-Rome-Europe axis dismissed the ‘Aryan model’ archaeologists as pan Babylonists.

And after Hitler and WW II, USA no longer supported the ‘Aryan model.

The ‘Great’ Game

At the dawn of 19th century, European empires, found themselves with barren cultural cupboards. World powers in their own right, with millions of slaves from Africa, after successful’ genocides in Americas, swollen by hubris and military power, across Asia these European powers controlled capital flows across the world. For these empires, archaeology, became a ‘playing’ ground for extending intra-European ‘coopetition’ (a hackneyed business term, made up of cooperation and competition).

For Germany, the charge into archaeology, was a “national competition and a less belligerent realm for expression of resentment at Germany’s late leap into colonial activity.” And these rivalries had a telling effect.

Britons and Frenchmen almost monopolized Egyptian excavation in the 1880s and the 1890’s, but then Germans, Americans, and Italians came in. The turning point came in 1905-1907 with a rush of American expeditions and the founding of the German Archaeological Institute … In Istanbul and its Fertile Crescent provinces, German activity in the army and railroad building spilled over into archaeology. The director of Istanbul’s antiquities service and museum in the 1870s had been a German. German excavations at Pergammon in 1878 and later at Babylon and later at the Hittite capital of Boghazkoi fanned Frenchmen’s uneasiness …

World War I aborted this promising beginning. German property in Egypt was sequestered. After the war, the dispute over Borchardt’s quiet export of the bust of Nefertiti to Berlin flared up. The Eyptians refused to allow German excavation or reopening of the German Archaeological Institute till 1929, when Herman Junker replaced the embittered Borchardt … he clung to his post until 1939 despite British accusations that he worked for the Nazis. (From Whose pharaohs?: archaeology, museums, and Egyptian national identity from … By Donald Malcolm Reid, pages 196-198; ellipsis, underlined text in parenthesis supplied.).

Of course this writer does not tell the complete story of Nefertiti’s bust.

Germany alone, it is estimated, spent some four million marks, between 1899-1913 on excavations in the Middle East /West Asia.

After the founding of the Reich in 1871, archaeology became a national enterprise. The IfAK was taken over by the state, and eventually formed the basis of today’s Deutsches-Archaeologisches Institut. Rivalry with France and Britain extended to the scholarly realm, and resulted in governmental support for large-scale excavations by Ernst Robert Curtius at Olympia (1875-81), Carl Humann at Pergamon (1878-86), and eventually Robert Koldewy at Babylon (1898-1914) and Walter Andrae at Assur (1903-1914) in Ottoman Mesopotamia.[5] Wilhelm II was a particularly enthusiastic promoter of archaeology (pp. 192-199) …

Archaeology abroad grew ever more dependent on the diplomatic and financial support of the Reich for massive long-term projects … German prehistorians of the early-twentieth century also maintained that their countrymen represented the purest modern descendants of the ancient Aryans. Thus they contributed to the witches’ brew that would make up Nazi racist ideology

Out of this politics, came propaganda. In some cases, these archaeological excavations served the purpose of intelligence gathering.

The most famous example of this intelligence work was that of TE Lawrence and Leonard Woolley who were excavating at Carchemish in Syria prior to World War I. Their archaeological endeavours seem to have been secondary and perhaps even a cover for more covert activities.

While Britain and the France, for colonial reasons, were ‘discovering’ the Greek miracle, Germany and the USA started making out a case for ‘Aryan’ roots’ of Western civilization. Martin Bernal, the author of ‘Black Athena trilogy ascribes Western “amnesia” of African contribution to Europe’s replacement of the “Ancient Model” of historiography with the “Aryan” model.

Simply speaking, the West replaced Egypt as the source of culture with the Aryans.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Competition from Germany was especially very galling for the Anglo-French archaeologists and historians. Hollywood’s portrayals of the ‘German archaeologist’, even today are proof of this. Hollywood could not keep its hand off such a juicy set of characters and incidents.

To this odd and motley crowd of British, French, German and Italian archaeologists, add a character like Sheikh Hamoudi, and you have all the characters needed for a Hollywood potboiler – the Indiana Jones series.

Vendyl Jones, James Henry Breasted, Robert Braidwood, Hiram Bingham III and Roy Chapman Andrews became a mashed up Indiana Jones. Hollywood villainy drew upon German archaeologists like Hermann Junker (German archaeologist will do anything for artifacts), Otto Rahn (SS officer after Holy Grail), Ludwig Borchardt (German archaeologist ships home stolen’ artifacts).

German archaeologists  became cannon fodder to build a Hollywood caricature as a villain – as Indiana Jones’ protagonist.

Three rings for elven kings

The history of Indus-Saraswati basin sites is full of false starts – and some of these are false beginnings persist to this date.

excavating northwest India’s “forgotten cities”, historians and archaeologists had to break free from received ways of imagining the past. Cunningham, for instance, based his investigation on Hsuan Tsang’s accounts, using them to identify monasteries and stupas in the course of his surveys. Masson made his way with Alexander the Great’s 326 BC route in mind. Harappa demanded a different grid.(from On the Road to Harappa, Indian Express, Posted: Aug 14, 2005 at 0000 hrs IST).

And that different grid is something that Western historians (and their Indian and Western followers) are finding difficult to work with. The usual theory trotted out is that

The discovery of Harappa revised, in one stroke, existing theories of ancient Indian history. Until then, the earliest known Indians were believed to be the literate Hindus who lived by the Rig Veda in the Second millennium BC. Modern Hindus trace their origins to this “Vedic civilisation”, whose language and religion were considered wholly indigenous to the subcontinent. The existence of a separate pattern of settlement, an advanced civilisation predating the Vedic era by a few hundred years, raised confusing – and politically charged – questions. If the Indus Valley peoples were not Hindus, who were they? And where, then, did the Hindus come from?

This seemingly coherent scenario actually smuggles in some very potent and smooth pseudo-concepts – the concept of Hindus, Vedic and Aryans.

India did not have a religion for many centuries. Dharma ruled India.  The virus of religion was introduced by Desert Bloc – and Indian’s thereafter become ‘Hindus’. Hindus, Hinduism, in India, especially before 1000 AD is a historical fallacy. This fallacy gained significant traction, especially in the last 100 years.

MS in Sanskrit on palm-leaf, Bihar or Nepal, 11th c., 32 ff., 5x31 cm, 2 columns, (3x27 cm), 5 lines in an early Bhujimmol script, borders marked with double lines with orange pigmentation between lines, 1 miniature in text.

MS in Sanskrit on palm-leaf, Bihar or Nepal, 11th c., 32 ff., 5x31 cm, 2 columns, (3x27 cm), 5 lines in an early Bhujimmol script, borders marked with double lines with orange pigmentation between lines, 1 miniature in text.

Second is the Vedic age. There never was a Vedic age. Not in the sense that Western historiographers slot and exclude various developments. This presupposes linear, directional, phased, and centralized development of the Vedas. Assuming a command and control system, it has a non-empirical base.

For instance, this assumes that the Vedic age was dedicated to the Vedas – and all other texts developed after that.

Fact is that the Vedas depend on the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; along with the Devatas and Asuras. The structure of the Devas, Asuras, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh can really be understood through the Upanishads,  the epics and the Puranas.  And we have not even begun on development of an ‘artificial’ language like Sanskrit  (as opposed to Prakrit).

Pauranik structures, Upanishadic debates, technical compendiums, the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata were parallel developments and coeval – albeit at different stages of evolution, pace and direction.

While other cultures struggle with low or high double digits of ancient texts, India has lakhs of them. This vast body of textual creation, has not happened anywhere else in the ancient world. The very assumption that it happened in India, in a matter of a few centuries – while the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Tocharians, Huns, were conquering India.

During these ‘invasions’, the conquerors were kind enough to leave Indian seers, sages, munis and rishis alone so that they could carry on with the composition of these texts. Massacring the males, raping the women and enslaving the rest, in the meanwhile continued in the parallel. And after these massacres and conversions, these invaders were of course kind enough to convert  to an Indian way of life – and melt away from the centre stage of Indian history. These attempts to phase Indian culture are artificial and unproductive. Simply a caricature of history.

The third fallacy of this dating logic is the ‘Aryan’ culture. Especially, as opposed to Dravidian culture. There was no Aryan race, religion, language, armies, conquests, invasions, rulers or other such markers. The only significant markers for the Aryans were values – especially in relation to slavery. Aryan values would not allow believers to enslave or be enslaved. Slavery was an asuric construct – which Aryan values opposed and sought to end. And all regions that abolished slavery became Aryavart.

And with these three pseudo-concepts, ‘modern’ historians mangle Indian history.

Same blunt tools

After WW1, with Germany and America on the Aryan train, Britain (and by extension, the West) was hard pressed to control Indian historiography. To show ‘Aryan’ invasion, ‘fresh’ evidence was needed. Indus Valley civilization provided that opportunity.

The task became easier as Germany lost WW 1, and the Ottoman Empire was carved out of existence. The rump state of Turkey went down the ‘Westernization’ path. Neither Germany or Turkey were any position to oppose Anglo-French historiography. After Hitler and WW2, the US was also in no position to continue with the Aryan legacy story. The Egypt-Greece-Rome-Europe axis dismissed the ‘Aryan model’ archaeologists as pan Babylonists.

Before leaving India, Britain gave one, last twist, to the ‘Aryan invasion’ knife, sticking out of the Indian history side. And Mortimer Wheeler was that last twist in the Indian side by the departing British rulers.

And HARP is the proxy knife which is being used – for the same reasons, with same blunt tools, but with lesser effects.

The Hittite city of Hattusa took another nearly 100 years to disgorge its secrets -to modern archaeologists. Guarded by weathered stone lions, (very similar to Ashoka Pillars lions), the excavation became the centre of much politicking.

The politics of archaoelogy

In 1904, English archaeologist John Garstang (1876-1956) lost out to Hugo Winckler, of Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, (German Oriental Institute) supposedly at the intervention of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm-II for excavations at Boghaz koi.

The finds at Bogazkoy were an extension of the Tell-el-Armana archive of diplomatic correspondence found by Flinders Petrie in 1891-1892. The decipherment of the Tell-el-Amarna letter, by JA Knudtzon, in 1901, linked the few earleir tablets found at Boghazkoi-Hattusha. By French archaeologist JA Ernest Chantre in 1893-94, who was

the first in a long line of archaeologists to dig at the ancient site in the 1890s, starting with the hill top compound. His exclusive interest in tablets, unfortunately, led him to destroy everything else he uncovered.


Military idiom in the Indus-Saraswati region

Posted in History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on February 25, 2010
Krishna-Balaram kill Kuvalayapida

Krishna-Balaram kill Kuvalayapida

Non-violent Indus Valley

The ‘official’ and ‘accepted’ version of Indian history, that is ‘taught’ starts with Alexander’s invasion. The dates of the Mauryan dynasts, Buddha’s birth have been arbitrarily decided to meet Western dating guidelines – especially the Bible.

By the time Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was officially announced, (interestingly, to coincide, with Boghazkoi decipherment), colonial history was set – and IVC at that time, was force-fitted into these datelines and ‘structures’. One ‘victim’ of this ‘blindness’ is the military paradigm of the IVC.

The public face of modern research on the Pakistani sites are three American researchers, Steven Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel, (FSW). In the background are RH Meadow and JM Keyoner.

Sitting ducks

“Three portions of the ancient city were surrounded by perimeter walls that served – what function?” asked Meadow, recently, while delivering “a standing-room-only talk at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology”, basking in the glory of Harappa excavations. Writes another specialist on Indus-Saraswati sites,

to the bafflement of scholars, they appear never to have developed any sort of standing army; neither has any evidence been found of militarism, battle damage, or even defensive fortifications in the Harappan domains. Instead, Kenoyer and others believe, the elite seems to have kept order by controlling and promoting trade, commerce and religion.(from Traders of the Plain, Written by Graham Chandler).

The most unnerving aspect, especially for believers in the Desert Bloc, is the complete lack of ‘usual’ markers. No emperors, no victory stele, no palaces, no prisons, very few weapons, no central authority – yet standard, weights, similar script’ signs, parallel evolution of city design and planning. As one writer proclaims, “An entirely peaceful state seems anomalous in the history of world civilization.” This makes the Indus-Saraswati model worthy of deeper study – and not an excuse to go into a catatonic state of denial.

Covering up this nervousness, and out of their depth, all these historians, seemingly want to make out that the Indus-Saraswati peoples were sitting ducks – waiting for ‘Aryans invaders’ to come and massacre them. Unfortunately, for the FSW (and their followers) the imagery of sitting ducks and Aryan invaders is fanciful imagery, based on zero evidence – as we will see.

Quiet neighbourhood!?

India then, like now, was not in the quietest of the neighbourhoods.  The carnage and wars in the neighbouring Elamite region, or in the further Hittite, Assyrian kingdoms, the Kassite wars, the Egyptian wars, to enslave peoples, would give you, Bhai Meadow, an indication of the loot-plunder-enslavement threat.

Indus-Saraswati’s good luck, is very similar to the argument used by Western historians to explain away why Genghis Khan’s armies bypassed India completely. Usually, and realistically, Bhai Meadow, a culture of the scale of Indus-Saraswati basin, does not depend on neighbours’ good-will or good luck for continued success, survival or existence.

Not for 2000 years.

Weapons, arms and armaments

The popular impression given by these ‘historians’ is that there were no weapons found in Indus-Saraswati sites. Archaeologists at Indus-Saraswati sites excavations found

Metal objects such as spearheads, daggers, arrowheads, and axes, were potentially weapons, though Wheeler noted that “a majority may have been used equally by the soldier, the huntsman, the craftsman, or even the ordinary householder”

Marshall writes of “Weapons of war or of chase comprised axes, spears, daggers, bows and arrows, maces, slings, and possibly-though not probably-catapults.” Interestingly, the Vedas refer “to ‘pur charishnu’ or a moving fort which was probably an engine for assaulting strongholds …” which may explain the lack of need for much armaments.

In 1880’s an European writer described how,

“Admirable bows of buffalo horn-small but throwing far, and strong-are still made in the Indus Valley about Multan. For this use the horns are cut, scraped, thinned to increase elasticity; joined at the bases by wooden splints, pegs, or nails, and made to adhere by glue and sinews.” (from The Book of the Sword, By Sir Richard F Burton).

And we know that the buffalo is represented in many of the Indus-Saraswati seals. Is that not right Witzel-bhai?

The volunteer army is the other answer. Large scale alliances, in warfare is the reason. Why is the absence of an extractive state to support an oppressive army, bothering all these historians so much? So, what do Western historians expect? A military-industrial complex? A conscript-slave army? We will see later, in the series, since there was a peaceful migration out of Indus-Saraswati basins, residents carried away all their useful belongings. Leaving behind little for the FSW!

A case of severe cynicismitis? Or is there is a problem because there are no nearby Greeks for 2000 kilometers for the next 2000 years?

Civil fortifications

Let us first look at some other low hanging fruits.

At different sites, fortified walls were an important aspect of various Indus-Saraswati sites. In some places, the city

“was surrounded by a very substantial fortification, as thick as 11 meters at its base (page 68)… (in one case) “a large residential area called the Middle Town was laid out, secured by the second fortification wall. This latter facility was provided with gates, bastions, and drains. (page 69) … Most of the people lived in lower town of Kalibangan. It was surrounded by a fortification wall ranging in thickness from 3.5 to 9 meters … The fortifications protected the town, which was laid out in a gridiron pattern, separating blocks of inhabitants … (page 76) … (At Sutkagen-dor, archaeologists), “unearthed a structure built against the Western fortification wall. This was made of both stone and mud bricks, some of the latter being rather large(50 centimeters long) and made without straw. A trench across the eastern fortification wall demonstrated that the inner face of the wall was vertical. It is estimated that the outer wall at this point would have been about 7.5 meters thick at the base (page 80) … (extracts from The Indus civilization: a contemporary perspective By Gregory L. Possehl, ellipses and underlined text supplied).

Significant measures, in that era, to deter attacking forces. Maybe FSW should study Tharro settlement (c.4000 BC), various Amri cities like Dhillanija Kot, Toji and Mazena-damb in South Baluchistan (of possibly Kulli culture), and at Siah-damb of Jhau. Mughal Ghundai is further evidence of fortifications in Saraswati-Indus belt. At “Kot Diji, some fifteen miles south of Khairpur and 25 miles east of Mohenjo-daro” of pre-Saraswati-Indus cultures.

And usually, Bhai Meadow, fortifications are a defensive feature! The large water storage systems and granaries(?) would have helped the city to weather a siege situation. So, why these numb questions?

Is it the simplicity of the culture or the grandeur of the achievement, which is causing this numbness?

An elephant toy, apparently! (Material: terra cotta Dimensions: 4.8 cm height, 5.4 cm width, 4.6 cm breadth Harappa, Lot 800-01 Harappa Museum, H87-348 ).

A toy elephant, apparently! (Material: terra cotta Dimensions: 4.8 cm height, 5.4 cm width, 4.6 cm breadth Harappa, Lot 800-01 Harappa Museum, H87-348 ).

Elephant seals, bones – and toys

Now, FSW-combine have indulged  in great debates on the mythical ‘Aryan Invader’ horse. Mythical, because there were no Aryan Invaders – and there cannot, therefore be an Aryan horse.

Between the Indian ‘khur’, or the mule, the wild ass and an actual horse. The equine vs asinine debate, about 13 ribs versus 14 ribs, with the false tones of certitude is a non-sequitur.

But, while demanding non-existent evidence, they cannot see the rich lode of markers, to construct credible historiography. For instance, the elephantine evidence.

At the various Saraswati Basin sites, clay seals are the earliest evidence of elephants. Clay elephant toys, copper elephant figures, clay elephants toys are some of the other items found at these sites. Elephant bones have also been found at various Indus-Saraswati sites. And these elephants were not bareback animals, but with a riding blankets on their backs. One seal shows an elephant with a feeding trough.

May I remind you that at one time, these elephants were used to frighten, intimidate people also – as the Kuvalayapida incident, at the time of Kamsa’s death. In the Battle of Mahabharata war elephants were in use. The Kuru capital city was Hastinapur – Elephant fortress.

So, while they demand evidence of the mythical Aryan Invaders’ horse in the Indus- Saraswati haystack, they cannot see evidence of elephantine proportions.

Elephants in later day history

The elephant story continued in post Indus-Saraswati Basin history also.

Semiramis (most probably, the Assyrian Queen, Shammu-ramat) and Cyrus paid heavy price when confronted by Indian elephants. Seleucos Nicator, ceded a large part of his kingdom – in exchange for some 500 elephants, which played a vital role in the Diadochi wars, at the Battle of Ipsus. Hannibal reached the gates of Rome, with his 37 elephants. Roman armies were beaten back by Persian armies, supported by Indian elephant units.

India till the nearly 1000 AD, were the only significant culture to capture, train, and utilize elephants. So, much so, there is an Indian medical treatise on the care and cure of elephants, Hastyayurveda. Or the Matanga-lila, a book on elephant lore and legends. Till about 1600 AD, Indian elephants corps were the envy of the world – and elephant training skills were not independently replicated anywhere else in the world. Did these skills come about as a result of some ‘spontaneous’ frisson of invention?

Or, do you, Mr.Meadow, think that Hastinapur, was named because the city-founders loved elephants, for the sake of elephants? A case of elephas gratia elephantis, you think? Elephants for elephants’ sake? Were these elephants seals proof of military use of elephants? In 2000 BC, were armoured elephants required? Says an old hand at Indus Saraswati sites

“There’s no evidence for armies or war or anything like that,” says archaeologist Jim Shaffer of Case Western Reserve University.

Surprised, Mr.Shaffer? I am not!

After all, wouldn’t the sight of trumpeting and rampaging elephants be enough to deter invaders?

Swing low, sweet chariot

Why would Indus-Saraswati valley people need chariots? To do wheelies? Or for use in Hollywood for Benhur prequel? Or because the Egyptians had them? Or should the Indus-Saraswati people have used horse-drawn chariots, to impress the firm of M/s Farmer, Sproat and Witzel? Talking of vehicles and motive power, “In the Atharvaveda we find that camels drew cars, mules were used … for drawing wagons and carrying loads … to be drawn by a single horse was considered no distinction at all.”Ravana fights Jatayu ... and his mules seem shaken

The reason why we see no ass-drawn or mule drawn chariot images, is because the same had negative associations. Trijata, the sympathetic demoness in Lanka, lifts Sita’s spirits by narrating her dream of Ravana being dragged down to narak, in ass-drawn chariot, by a devi, most probably a personification of Nirrti.

Not to forget the use of khara (khur in modern Hindi), used by Dhumraksha, the asur general, (meaning grey eyed) in Ravana’s army. His chariot drawn by khurs, was smashed by Hanuman, with a huge rock. Ravana’s chariot, in which he was carrying away Sita, was drawn by mules.

But, if it was rational uses like transport of soldiers, weapons, armour, food, camping equipment, bullock carts were good enough. The common Indian zebu bull was a prized possession, with enormous pulling power, can survive on anything, high resistance to diseases, long life – and can be easily trained. From carts to chariots would be, but a small step, with the arrival of horses – whether home-bred in the Asvakan (modern Afghanistan) region – or brought by India-Scythians, from Central Asian steppes. I wonder how many ribs the Marwari breed of horses have?

Remember, Alexander sent back some Indian zebu cattle to improve cattle breeds back home. At the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records, Alexander took some 230,000 Asiatic humped zebu cattle to, says Arrian, improve cattle stock in Macedonia.

A more modern example of this paradigm comes from Jan Hus. The Taborite faction, using ordinary wagons, modified with armour, routed the combined Christian armies of the Vatican, Germany and their European allies, in many battles, during the Hussite Wars. It were these lowly wagons, which put and end to Church tyranny. The only people living in Tabors (meaning mobile camps) at that time (and now) in Bohemia, were the Roma Gypsies, migrants from India to Europe. We will see later in the series, how the Roma Gypises were an important part of the Indus-Saraswati trade equation.

Interestingly, the Vedas refer “to ‘pur charishnu’ or a moving fort which was probably an engine for assaulting strongholds …”

Pashupati seal from one the Indus-Saraswati sites - another name for Shiva

Pashupati - another name for Shiva, in "yogi" pose with animals (seal from one the Indus-Saraswati sites - National Museum, New Delhi)0

Indus-Saraswati worship

Would worshipers of Thor, Mars and Apollo become non-violent protesters in the face of a military threat? Similarly, why do you think that worshipers of Shiva would be passive by-standers. Would they just lay down and die if looter-invaders and slave-raiders came calling?

A matter of co-incidence is how “bone dice have been unearthed at the ancient site of Mohenjo-Daro, ‘the city of the dead’, in the  Indus Valley.” In Mahabharata, Shakuni’s brothers were imprisoned and starved to death by Duryodhana.

Shakuni’s motive! Avenge the death of his brothers. Shakuni’s revenge? Bring about the downfall of Duryodhana! Gameplan? Foster conflict between Pandavas and Duryodhana. The tools – Shakuni’s dice were made from the bones of his brothers. And the dice obeyed his commands.

Unarmed combat

The other thing you must remember is that Balarama, the elder brother of Ghanshyam Krishna can be co-credited as pioneer of Indian wrestling and unarmed combat – and the plough. Bhima’s (the 2nd of the Pandava brothers) was known for his strength – and skills with unarmed combat. As was his primary adversary, Duryodhana. Bhima’s duel with Jarasandha, was again based on skills rather than brute force.

the established modes of wrestling amongst Hindu athletæ. 1. Sannipáta is described ‘mutual laying hold of.’ 2. Avadúta, ‘letting go of the adversary.’ g. Kshepańa, ‘pulling to, and casting back.’ 4. Musht́inipáta, ‘striking with fists.’ 5. Kílanipáta, ‘striking with the elbow.’ 6. Vajranipáta, ‘striking with the fore-arm.’ 7. Jánunirgháta, ‘pressing or striking with the knees.’ 8. Báhuvighat́t́ana, ‘interlacing the arms.’ 9. Pádoddhúta, kicking.’ 10. Prasrisht́á, ‘intertwining of the whole body.’ In some copies another term occurs, Aśmanirgháta, ‘striking with stones,’ or ‘striking blows as hard as with stones;’ for stones could scarcely be used in a contest specified as ‘one without weapons’ (from the Vishnupurana).

The transmission of unarmed combat systems to China, Japan, and the rest of South East Asia thereafter is well documented. On the other hand, the wrestling match between Sugreeva and Bali was based on brute force, as were Hanuman’s  duels.

Krishna and Balarama Fight Kamsa's Wrestlers: Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of Lord Vishnu) India (Madhya Pradesh, Malwa), ca. 1650 Ink and opaque watercolor on paper; 6 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (16.8 x 19.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin N. Haas, 1973 (1973.337)

Krishna and Balarama fight Kamsa's wrestlers: Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of Lord Vishnu) India (Madhya Pradesh, Malwa), ca. 1650 Ink and opaque watercolor on paper; 6 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (16.8 x 19.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin N. Haas, 1973 (1973.337)

Drupad’s city

The Kampilya project shows, the Drupad city was about 2000 years after the Saraswati Basin sites. This site, being handled by ASI and two Italians archaeologists, Gian Giuseppe Filippi, Bruno Marcolongo shows significant continuity with the Dholavira site.

As for Kampilya, maybe Shri Meadow, you do know that Draupadi was born in Drupad. Draupadi’s brother, Dhrishtadyumna, was the general of the Pandava army, in the battle of Mahabharata.

So, instead of basking in the reflected glory, is it not time that you (Farmer and Meadow) got off your … whatever it is … and start doing something useful! Instead of asking such inane questions.

Coming to horse

The FSW school has stampeded Indian historians into a construct that horses and chariots (e.g. Rajaram and Jha) are essential to prove a continuity between ‘Vedic’ Indian and Indus-Saraswati culture. Between post-IVC and pre-Mauryan India. The hub of the FSW logic is the ‘Vedic’ horses.

On the importance of the horse, to ‘Vedic’ aryans, I have wondered why, none of the Vishnu dashavataras (except one) use horse as their ‘vahana’. Looking at the wide variety of  vahanas– animals used by the gods as their ‘vehicle’, is illustrative. Indra is airavata, (even though he owns the  the horse, Uchaishravas), Vishnu is garuda, Skanda is peacock, Durga’s lion, Saraswati rides a swan, Shiva the Nandi bull, Yama on the buffalo, Varuna on a makara, Vayu on a mriga (deer /antelope) or sometimes on a chariot pulled by  a thousand horses, Ganesh on a mouse, Lakshmi on gaja or uluka, Shani on a crow, Manmatha on a suka (parrot), et al. No god (except one) uses the horse as a vahana.

Consider that Indra and Lakshmi both use the airavata. Vishnu saves Indrayumna /Gajendra, as a gaja from the crocodile’s jaws. The eight guardian dieties, who protect the eight directions on the compass sit on an elephant – Kubera (north), Yama (south), Indra (east), Varuna (west), Isana (northeast), Agni (southeast), Vayu (northwest), and Nirrti (southwest).

Western ‘scholar’s’ of Indian texts and literature and historians keep on about the horse, while the horse does not have the centrality that they claim it does! The use of saddled horse in Indian texts is also a major element that goes against the ‘centrality of the horse’. The Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata do not use the saddled horse as a means of transport – which only reinforces that the saddled horse gained popular much later – maybe even a latter day ‘invention’. Unquantified Witzellian claims of Indian Sanskrit texts “teeming with horses as the Rigveda indeed is” are grossly misdirected, if not deliberately exaggerated.

Remember Witzelbhai, the Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, a first in the world, happened probably around 500 BC-300 BC, at the latest by 200BC.  The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, made horses easy to ride and manage. And made the Parthian cavalry into a fearsome fighting force. In 200BC. Well after the vedas were written.

So, much for the horse being central to ‘Vedic’ India.

Deconstructing Indian dates

All these theories rest on the axle of philological dating. Based on imprecise evidence, tools and estimates, of when various texts were ‘composed’ and ‘reduced’ to writing, and ‘frozen for ever’, which are based on stylistic changes in Sanskrit language. Looking at construction of Sanskrit language and texts, the logic of oral ‘composition’, ‘reduction’ to writing, ‘frozen for ever’ is a wrong model – and creates these false debates and dating models.

Sanskritic compositions were based on team effort, (picture Sage Durvasa travelling with his 1000’s of disciples), a vast body of argument and debate  (Kahoda-Vandin-Ashtavakra debate) over many hundreds – if not thousands, of years. Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Vashishtha, Narada were the most well known of the wandering monks of many Indian texts and scriptures. Appearing and disappearing at various points of time and events.

They could not have been the same person, because they appear at the beginning of Rahgukul (Vishwamitra at the Trishanku incident) and at the end of Raghukul (the marriage of Sita and Ram) – spanning more than 30 generations of kings. Was Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Vyasa, a titular  system, decided by a collegium of peer rishis. The ascension of Vishwamitra from a rishi-to-rajrishi-to-brahmarishi supports this.

FSW deny the theory of evolution

The HARP and FSW combine cannot accept that Indians evolved. Presumably, the evolution of horse usage in Indian geography went through simple four phases – wild-tame-rare-common phases. Why are horses essential to any history? Why do M/s Farmer, Sproat, Witzel assume that the Rig Veda was not ‘updated’.

Why this assumption that there were copyright laws? Where is a law which states that Indians cannot exist without horses – or write about these horses. In fact, in the entire Ramayana, the occurrence of chariots is rare and far in between. Raghu Ramachandra did not fight Ravana while mounted on chariots. Apparently, chariots were not a common occurrence when Ramayana was being written.

Interestingly, Ravana had chariots – as did Dashratha, while fighting Shambara /Samhasura. Sumantara, the minister was asked to prepare a chariot, by Dashratha, for Raghu Ram’s exile – which was sent sent back from the edge of the forest. Presumably because it was rare, considered a luxury and it was valuable. While the rest of the time Raghu Rama walked. While fighting asuras under Vishwamitra, or during his exile or during the campaign against Ravana. So, this basis that chariots were the beginning and the end of Indic texts is simply misplaced.

But in the Mahabaharata, the picture is completely different. We have Nala (of Damayanti fame), who was an expert charioteer. His exchange of ‘charioteering secrets’ for ‘secrets of the dice’ from King Rituparna is interesting – as it displays an understanding of permutations and combinations, and even maybe fractals. Adhiratha, a poor charioteer, was Karna’s foster father. During the 18-day Mahabharata war, chariots had a central place.

The evolution of chariots and horses in Indian society was gradual and slow – and not an ab initio aspect as claimed by ‘Aryan invader’ theoristas.

The face of Indus Valley’ research

Current research on Mohenjo-daro and Harappa  sites in Pakistan is controlled by a joint American-Pakistani project – Harappa Archaeological Research Project – HARP. Three American researchers, Steven Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel, (referred to as FSW) are the public face of this research. In the background are RH Meadow and JM Keyoner.

Any attempts to disagree with the HARP theories or introduction of  any Indic element is met with fierce personal attacks, withering criticism – marshaling, all the resources of the American establishment. At various stages, these three researchers (FSW) have raised the pitch of the debate to a point of shrillness which is puzzling.

So, M/s Farmer, Sproat and Wtzel, your relevance (FSW’s) is directly related to the attention that Indians give you.

Remember that Indian history is your meal ticket.

Elephants - 5000 years of Indian history

Elephants – 5000 years of Indian history (Prize winning photo of elephant from Chamarajendra Zoological Garden in Mysore, by NAGESH PANATHALE, Mysore bureau, Vijaya Karnataka at national photography salon 2008 -Photographic Society of Madras).

Kubera (north), Yama (south), Indra (east), Varuna (west), Isana (northeast), Agni (southeast), Vayu (northwest), and Nirrti/raksasa (southwest).
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